Tag Archives: ephemeral art

More or Less Ephemeral

There are many new tattoo parlours in the northern suburbs and their presence has reminded me to write about the connection between tattoos and street art. Street art may be easier to remove or buff than a tattoo but that doesn’t make it ephemeral. Street artists may be realistic and stoic in the face of buffing or capping of their pieces. Some street art may not last that long but this is circumstantial and not an intrinsic quality and some pieces for years.

“Ephemeral”, “transitory”, “fad”, “fashion” are these words are applied to street art in the hope that it will all go away? Ephemeral means that it is lasting for only a short time; it was first used for plants or insects that live for only a short period of time, like mayflies. Collectors of ephemera collect items that were designed to be short-lived use like postage stamps, postcards, tickets and movie posters. Compared to the lifespan of these items street art is hardly ephemeral.

Phoenix, Less Ephemeral More Ephemeral

The transitory nature of street art is occasionally referred to in the art. Some street art is self-consciously designed to only last a short period of time, like Gav Barbey’s “Hate Love”, two coloured ice blocks melting in Hosier Lane. “Less/More Ephemeral” by Phoenix a series of letters that have been slowly wearing away on a wall in Little Lonsdale Street. These works are the street art equivalents of the auto-destructive art of Gustav Metzger or Jean Tinguely.

Lasting for years is hardly an ephemeral quality, more like an annual or biannual but not ephemeral. The people who object to graffiti do not consider the marks to be ephemeral but rather permanent. Street art may be one of the most permanent art movements, considering all the digital photographs of the street art preserved somewhere on a computer. And the street art style tattoos are permanent.

Ars langa, vita brevis (art is long, life is short) – Hippocrates


Moreland Sculpture Show 2009

Early Tuesday morning I bicycled to see the Moreland Sculpture Show 2009 at Bridges Reserve in Coburg. Although it was only 10am I was not alone in the park. Some people were walking through on the way to the shops and they stopped to look especially after walking over Kitty Owens and Mary Zbierski pavement painting ‘Magic Carpet’ (Ghost Chinese Market Garden). And, also a class of children from Coburg Primary School, from just across Bell St., were looking at the sculpture with their teacher.

Kitty Owens & Mary Zbierski - "Magic Carpet (Ghost Chinese Market Garden)"

Kitty Owens & Mary Zbierski - "Magic Carpet (Ghost Chinese Market Garden)"

At the entrance of the park Tim Craker’s “Botanical Data Files” is a banner of images of leaves cuts from orange plastic fencing. Craker leaves the cut out remains under the installation. Over the years there has been an increased focus on the annual theme of the show; this year’s theme was “Growth”. There is increased interest in ephemeral art rather than traditional sculpture in permanent materials with the inclusion of a $1,000 Ephemeral Award (non-acquisitive). And the definition of the sculpture for the show has been expanded to definitely include installations. Last year’s winner “The Future is Now” by Joel Bliss is still on exhibit in the park. (See my review of last year’s Moreland Sculpture Show. )

Stephanie Karvasilis -  'The Grass is Greener'

Stephanie Karvasilis - 'The Grass is Greener'

Many of the works on exhibit were by artist-gardeners that incorporated living pants in the sculptural work; (see my entry on Artist-Gardeners). ‘The Grass is Greener’ by Stephanie Karvasilis is a portable garden, a suitcase full of grass. Karvasilis’s work exists in multiples, one of which can also seen in the Victoria St. mall, in Coburg’s shopping strip. Amanda Hills includes growing parsley in her sculpture/installation ‘Apiaceous (liked by bees)’. And Gina Cahayagan’s ‘Bird’, although basically a pot plant holder in the shape of a bird, is ingeniously made of mostly of plastic cable ties.

David Marshall - 'Petecormic Growth'

David Marshall - 'Petecormic Growth'

David Marshall’s sculpture ‘Petecormic Growth’ is also clearly a gardening sculpture. ‘Petecormic Growth’ is a fantastic concept using the Pete plastic bottles stuck into a large burnt log. During the drought in Melbourne people have these bottles stuck around their garden and Marshall has made this ordinary object look like beautiful crystals.

Laurie Collins - 'Seed'

Laurie Collins - 'Seed'

There are sculptures in the show made of more permanent materials. Laurie Collins sculpture ‘Seed’ is a circle of found metal objects with a painted green sprout at the centre. And looking closer, on the green sprout a male and female figure sprout. Tony Farrell’s ‘Out of the Ashes’ a metal base relief scene made using found materials. Regina Wells followed recent trends of using mirrors in sculpture with her work ‘Still Reaching For The Sky’, a cluster of pine logs with mirrors on top reflecting the sky; the school kids said that it looked “like sushi rolls”.

Regina Wells - 'Still Reaching For The Sky'

Regina Wells - 'Still Reaching For The Sky'

The exhibition included two political works Liz Walker’s ‘Advance Australia Where?’ that was damaged on Sunday 14/6 had been replaced with a photo and a notice from the Moreland Council. Moreland Sculpture Show has had problems with vandalism for many years but vandalism with a Australian nationalist political agenda is new.

There was also an anonymous inclusion of a site-specific, post-minimalist, plastic-crate sculpture with collage details from the ‘High School for Coburg’ group that was not officially part of the show.

Marynes Avila - 'Ancient'

Marynes Avila - 'Ancient'

Alice Parker’s ‘Growth’ fabric minimalist installation didn’t really work. Dawn Whitehand’s ‘Earth Eggs’ made from unfired clay that would naturally decay was unspectacular. Helen Pollard’s ‘Carry the Message’ made of junk mail origami cranes were very ordinary. And Jo Zito’s ‘Roba Trovata’ was simply ugly.


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